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moran… or something
The Chair of the Freeborn County Republicans, Mike “Jerrold” Dettle, wrote an op-ed in the Albert Lea Tribune. It contains an excellent example of the moronic logic the Republicans frequently employ to compare President Obama to somebody or something that everyone agrees is bad. This time it’s Hitler.

In the column, Dettle makes the statement in a dogwhistle to the notion that President Obama can be compared to Hitler:

For example, the Weimar Republic (Germans) in “selfish want” bankrupted their nation and foolishly elected a popular leader with the name of Adolf Hitler.
Like us, the Germans had been given their freedom through the struggles of previous generations, only to vote themselves bigger benefits including cabarets. Our own Liza Minnelli mockingly made famous the song that scorned the Germans, “Oh Chum! Come to the Cabaret.”

Liza Minnelli’s divine performance in the move “Cabaret” certainly is spectacular evidence for Americans being like the Germans, voting in a popular leader who became a ruthless dictator who practiced genocide on an unprecedented scale, as well as going to war against just about everybody with a handful of allies.
Cabaret is a movie starring Minnelli, based upon a 1966 musical, based upon a 1951 play I Am a Camera, in its turn based upon Christopher Isherwood’s 1939 novel, Goodbye to Berlin. While immensely entertaining, Cabaret’s not only fiction, but it’s fourth-hand fiction set in 193, set in the Kabarett culture he knew. (What’s up with Minnesota Republicans using musicals, written years after the fact, as primary historical documents in their quest to equate President Obama with Hitler?)
(Bluestem Prairie)



GOP went after TriCare during shutdown

by Eric Ferguson on October 28, 2013 · 2 comments

obamaDuring negotiations on reopening the government, Republicans wanted cuts to the Tricare program, which provides health insurance to service members and veterans:


Later that night, in staff-level discussions, the sides began considering a trade. In exchange for further means-testing of Medicare benefits, as well as reform of federal workers’ pensions and Tricare health benefits for veterans, House Republicans would give Democrats $100 billion in sequestration relief over two years and open the government that Monday.


That Huffington Post article is lengthy look at how Democrats handled the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis. There are several interesting insidery bits, and remarkably much of it is on the record. Some things had come out before, like Pres. Obama and Sen. Reid agreeing before the crisis came that they were going to hang tough and not negotiate over keeping the government open and avoiding default. However, at the risk it’s just me that missed it, this is the first report that Republicans wanted to include Tricare cuts. Generally republican support for veterans starts and stops with trying to turn current service members into combat veterans, but even when they’ve felt brave enough to go after entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, they’ve left Tricare alone.


Seems like their willingness to after it should be a bigger story. Especially if Tricare is how you cover your medical bills.


That’s just the bit that stood out in a long article with plenty to interest news junkies and political activists. The core was right at the top, where Obama and Reid had a long heart to heart, having followed separate strategies and cut separate deals with Republicans like a many of us guessed. Reid seems to have been as angry as us in the base over Obama’s caves in the prior crises manufactured by Republicans, and Obama learned from the debacle of 2011, though he hadn’t learned enough — yet. He finally figured out this year that modern Republicans have no interest in governing, no interest in a “grand bargain”, and the search for something they’d like and would agree to was pretty pointless. Reid, for all the criticism of weakness from much of the base (mostly unfair IMHO), did have the opposition figured out much earlier than Obama. This time though, they got on the same page and, when the crisis hit, stuck to the plan:


Republicans going nuts over Syria

by Eric Ferguson on September 12, 2013 · 0 comments

UPDATE: Colbert’s Rand Paul bit is up.


Who knew Groucho was a Republican? Whatever it is Obama’s for, he’s against it. “Like Shakespeare said to Nathan Hale, I always get my man!” There, a knowledge of history to fit in well with today’s GOP!


This is about Syria of course. Republicans are upset that Obama is “appeasing”, even in the same column where fellow Republicans are criticized for having supported Obama’s plan to attack (h/t Brian Beutler at Salon) Yes, now that it looks like there’s a deal with Syria and Russia to remove Syria’s chemical weapons, Republicans are apoplectic. Give them some time to figure out what about. Something about giving in to Syria by taking its chemical weapons away, or being played by Putin who tricked Obama into accepting exactly what he wanted.

Not that it’s any great surprise that Republicans are now upset that there likely won’t be an attack, because there actually is a measure of consistency, which made me think of Groucho’s song. Whatever Obama is for, they’re against. Whatever he does must be criticized as completely wrong. Did I say “Not that it’s any great surprise…”? I meant utterly predictable, given how so many Republicans were insisting on some sort of intervention in Syria until Obama responded to the Aug. 21 attacks by saying some sort of response was required, and then, or at least once they would have to cast a politically perilous vote, attacking Syria was this horrible idea. And now they’re upset Obama apparently found a way to get rid of the weapons without having to actually fire missiles. Cripes, the way they keep changing their position, you half expect them to nominate Mitt Romney for president. Oh, right.




Syrian war crimes trials or missiles

by Eric Ferguson on September 8, 2013 · 0 comments

map of Syria showing approximate area held by each side

map of Syria showing approximate area held by each side

I’m skeptical of suggestions of ad hoc war crimes trials as a way to respond the chemical weapons attacks in Syria, partly because they’re so far just congressmen tossing off suggestions at a time when Congress is working on the specific wording of resolutions already, but let’s suppose the idea was developed and serious. There are other problems. When there’s already a permanent International Criminal Court which most nations have signed on to, but not the US, the only interest in an ad hoc court might come from us. Are we willing to do that alone? Would such a court have any legitimacy? If some future Syrian government would support such a court, it won’t actually need or even want our help. Even if such a court can get up and running, it would have the legitimacy problem of being perceived as victor’s justice. Even that assumes that the prospective defendants can be brought to trial. If they attain or retain power, trying them isn’t going to happen. Besides, maybe knowing there’s an indictment hanging over their heads, maybe they have an incentive to fight to the bitter end, well past any realistic hope of victory.


Back to the ICC, it’s already there, and already legitimate to just about everybody except us. What if instead of trying to create some ad hoc court just for Syria, Bashar Assad and everyone accused of using chemical weapons, or committing any other war crimes, could be indicted before the ICC? What if the president dropped the idea of firing missiles, and went for signing on to the ICC instead?




Syria isn’t Iraq and Obama isn’t Bush

by Eric Ferguson on August 28, 2013 · 32 comments

Update 2:50 PM: Here’s a map showing the parts of Syria under control by different sides. It comes from this Daily Kos diary which provides good background and which I recommend.

To be sure, President Obama will explain whatever decision he makes regarding Syria with a credibility problem, partly of his own making and partly inherited. The self-inflicted part can be summed up in a sentence: leakers of classified information to the press are in prison or hiding while war criminals are going unprosecuted. The general public might not care, but Obama’s base does, and he’s going to need our support for a potentially unpopular intervention.


The other problem Obama inherited from Bush Jr. Essentially, the attitude is Bush lied to trick the country into going to war, so Obama is lying too. It would betray a gross ignorance of history to think Bush was the first president to lie about a war, but not all presidents are guilty and not every use of force is based on a lie. Decisions might be arguable or even terribly wrong, but they’re not all lies. To believe Obama is no different from Bush and whatever decision is made about Syria is the same as invading Iraq isn’t skepticism. That’s cynicism — and I do see some of us engaging in cynicism.


The alternative to believing just anything isn’t insisting on believing nothing. Skepticism means demanding proof before accepting a claim. Why did most of us on the left oppose invading Iraq? If it was because we knew we were being lied to, then I suggest some faulty memories are at work. We suspected deception, but all we had to go on was what was presented to the public, and we didn’t know Iraq had no WMDs or ties to Al Qaida. We just knew the Bush administration’s case wasn’t holding up to scrutiny, and if you’re asking us to inflict the horrors of war on another country, you better have awfully strong proof — which they didn’t, even before we knew they cherrypicked the evidence to reveal only the supportive parts and withheld contradictory evidence.


Yet here is where we get to a huge difference between invading Iraq and whatever Obama decides about Syria. There was no war in Iraq until Bush started it, and his administration conducted a long sales campaign to gain public and congressional support. There is already war in Syria. Obama isn’t starting it, and he quite clearly doesn’t want to get involved. If he did, he’s already had plenty of pretext. He knows how to run a public relations campaign. He could have intervened a couple years ago if he wanted. He could have used Syria to distract from the 2011 debt ceiling crisis. He could have ginned up a war in time for  his reelection, given how the country rallies around the president in wartime. Obviously he chose not to. In terms of domestic politics, Obama has nothing to gain by involvement in another conflict. The public clearly doesn’t want to get involved, and explaining the reasons for getting involved will be difficult, which is a headache Obama certainly won’t want. We can also figure a president who reads and personally signs all condolence letters to families of dead servicemembers is fully aware of what risks he’ll be ordering for real people.




Appealing to seniors as a 2014 strategy

by Eric Ferguson on August 24, 2013 · 1 comment

unhappy elephantMight Democrats have a chance of defying history and picking up seats in a midterm election? They might, according to the Democracy Corps Battleground survey. The gist of their survey is they looked only at the 80 most competitive seats, and they find Democrats ahead in generic polling, including in the Republican seats. Seniors are splitting about evenly. Testing different attacks found some attacks moved voters by several points, which wasn’t the case in 2012.


These might be the key bits (bolding theirs):

Seniors are a potentially big story.  Seniors broke heavily for Republicans in 2010, and they are a disproportionate voice in off-year elections.  This survey shows the race tied with them, which would be a huge turnaround.  And it is seniors who move the most after the attacks in the survey.

Like in the Republican battleground, seniors may be the story.  Democrats lead Republicans among seniors by 4 points and are statistically even among white seniors.

Seniors were the most Republican age group in both 2010 and 2012. They tend to have the lowest dropoff in turnout in midterm elections. If they break evenly, that worth a few points to Democrats.



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Alas, for the failing, flailing GOP, their efforts at trying to inflate small quantities of political dirt into large, hot air turd balloons has resulted in nothing more than popped poop bubbles of failed scandal.


Yet again, Obama has proven to be the Teflon President; nothing sticks. While the popped poop appears to have fallen back onto the GOP and Tea Baggers, leaving them with dirty hands, and red  and smelly brown  feces, er, faces.


Despite the best and worst efforts by the right, President Obama’s approval rating on Monday, according to the Gallop Poll was at 48% Approval  / 45% Disapproval.


So how did he fare during the week of faux scandals?


On Saturday’s Gallop Poll, Obama’s Approval rating had JUMPED to 51%, and his Disapproval rating had DECLINED to 42%.


This is pretty much one of the better sets of polling numbers since the January start of his current term.


So, who feels this way, and how is this reflected broken down by party approval ratings?


On Jan. 27th Dems polled a 91% approval with Repubs at 11% approval; on May 12th, Dems approval polled at 84%, with Repubs polling at 15%.


The smart lesson to be learned from this is that like their wedge issues, dirty politics don’t work, and they can backfire badly, producing the exact opposite of intended results.  But with the ‘think tanks’ all advising the right to continue with the Turd Theater, and the past history of the right doubling down in repeating their mistakes, I think we know which is the more likely course: make up shit, and then try to smear Obama with it.


And in case you were wondering how much attention the GOP “poop-oop-a-dupe” had garnered, as of the May 16th poll:


Democrats need to do better with white voters part 4

by Eric Ferguson on April 18, 2013 · 1 comment

What do I mean by “Democrats need to better with white voters”? And what do I mean by “part 4″? The latter is easy to answer. It turned into a multi-post subject, where the entirety of part 1 was devoted just to answering the question of why. That’s why I’m going to give just the brief version of why Democrats need to win more white votes, despite all the attention given to generational differences among voters and the Republican attempts at reaching out to young people, non-whites, generally what the recent elections revealed as Democratic-leaning demographic groups (DLDGs). The gist is this:


  • President Obama won the popular vote by a narrow enough margin, that Republicans can overcome it if they have any success reaching out to DLDGs. Yes, I’m aware of how they’ve been tripping over their own tongues, but let’s give ourselves a margin of error by assuming they do better enough at outreach to give themselves a chance at the electoral college.
  • Republicans won a healthy majority of the US House with a large minority of the overall vote, and a similar dynamic holds true in many state legislatures. We have to win more white voters if we hope to win majorities of seats.


I’m aware the demographic trends have been in our favor, but I don’t see why we should concede elections while we wait for elections to be handed to us. I also don’t like just assuming current trends continue. I prefer giving ourselves a margin of error, just in case GOP outreach works, or demographic trends change.


So that’s the brief version of why Democrats have to win more white voters. There are a lot of variables involved, like age, religion, income, a bunch more, and identifying those was done in part 2 (please check there before asking why I didn’t consider something, because probably I did). I devoted part 3 to one variable, population density, which has a remarkable correlation to the presidential vote. It got its own post partly because it’s rather complicated, but also because this seems like the single most important variable. At a minimum, it seems population density will suggest some overlooked targets for future elections and possible future strategies.


So in this final part, we get down to the application of all this analysis. How do we win more white votes? If it was resolvable in a single blog post I suppose it would be more obvious and already done, so I can’t pretend to have the whole solution. I do have ideas though, after the jump, but first one point to make about the feasibility of winning a bigger share of the white vote. Could we increase Obama’s 39% a few points to, say, 43%? Obama’s share in 2008 was, oh look, 43%. That would seem definitive proof we can do this. So let’s do this:


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Dear AP: Climate change is not a social issue

by Eric Ferguson on February 13, 2013 · 0 comments

EarthMPR reprinted an AP article on last night’s State of the Union speech. The writer, Nedra Pickler, included this weird sentence (bolding mine), “And he continued to push in support of left-leaning social issues including gun control, immigration reform, climate change and advancing equal rights for gays.”

I won’t speculate on whether the writer innocently meant to lump together what she saw as non-economic issues, or really thinks climate change is just some lefty special interest thing. I would like to point out to her that social issues are about people, and climate change is about nature, which I would think any cub reporter could tell apart. Social issues are normally about expanding or restricting rights. Climate change is about whether the drought becomes the new normal inland while the coasts get flooded.

Equality and public safety are obviously important too, but a significant danger to the entire planet just got lumped in with other issues, suggesting the writer dismissed their individual importance. She could have just said the president included non-economic issues if a characterization was needed.

One thing the writer missed entirely was voting rights. The president introduced a 102-year-old woman who waited several hours in line to vote, like hundreds of thousands of her fellow Floridians. That makes voting rights more than just a throw-away line, as does his mention of a specific bill. That would seem to indicate the president thinks this is an issue up there with the others important enough to warrant their own section of the speech.

One tangent, how could the Republicans sit and refuse to applaud this woman’s determination to vote? Oh right, elderly black ladies voting in swing states is bad. Since the long waits aren’t enough, that proves we need a strict photo ID law.


Democrats need to do better with white voters part 2

by Eric Ferguson on February 4, 2013 · 4 comments

UPDATE: a commenter came up with another variable

Last December I wrote about, counter-intuitive as it might sound given what Republicans are going through, why Democrats need to win a bigger share of the white vote. This follow-up is getting into how to win more white votes, but given that a month has passed since the first post, here’s the short version of why:

  • Considering presidential elections, Obama won only narrowly, and improving on Obama’s 39% of the white vote by even a few percent provides a margin of error in case Republicans have some success reaching out to what we might lump together as Democratic-leaning demographic groups (DLDGs). Succeeding at such an improvement in the popular vote will probably have some effect on the electoral college too.
  • We’re losing the majority of congressional and legislative districts despite winning the popular majority (that’s the case in the US House, and though I don’t know about state legislative races collectively, it’s true in enough states that I feel safe saying that). Our huge lead among DLDGs isn’t translating into seats. If we can’t improve among whites, we can’t win the US House, nor most legislative chambers.
  • Why do I feel so sure we can do this, improving on Obama’s 39% a few points to, say, 43%? In 2008, Obama’s share of the white vote was — 43%. That would seem to be definitive proof we can do this.

    Since figuring out how to win more of the white vote is an overambitious undertaking for a blog post, let’s just start with identifying the variables of our task. At least then we can start with some sense of the scope of the problem and where to start actually working on it, and the first variable that comes to mind is the exceptions.

    Exceptions: OK, maybe it seems obvious there will be always be exceptions to any trend, problem, guideline, whatever, that we come up with, but sometimes we need to stop and look at exceptions to see if they really are unique, or if they tell us something. For example, in the first post, I included  this graph showing how Obama won heavily in the most densely populated precincts, but Romney won where the population is sparse:

    One of the whitest and sparsest states is Vermont — where Democrats win easily.  
    Did Vermont Democrats get lucky, or do something pretty smart, or some combination? I don’t know nearly enough to speculate, but I do know Vermont proves that areas that are white and sparse can be won, and I know it’s worth looking into how it happens there.

    For an example I know better, Northeast Minnesota is also white and sparse, and has long been a Democratic stronghold. The area isn’t as agricultural as other rural areas of the state, and the workforce is heavily unionized. Could that be the difference? We know union members vote about two-thirds Democratic. I’ve never seen union members broken out by demographics, so I’m going to make an educated guess that white union members vote more Democratic than white non-union members. Does that suggest anything to us? A couple things. One, white union members might be a place to start looking for white votes. Two, organizing more workers might lead to more of them voting Democratic.

    Union membership: So there’s a variable to consider, union membership. I’m sure every good Democrat is thinking organizing more workers is screamingly obvious and not exactly an insight. Sometimes the obvious still needs to be checked in case there’s something we overlooked, like just how many white union members are voting Republican? Why are the one-third of union members who vote Republican voting for a party that wants them to stop existing? Organizing is tough and long term, but short-term, is there someplace where we’re leaving votes on the metaphorical table?

    Density: Next, let’s get back to density and see if that graph above tells us anything. Asking whether density causes people to vote a certain way, or people who vote a certain way prefer the attributes of particular densities, or people are self-selecting somehow, got complicated. In fact, this section got so long as I was writing it that I cut it out and started a separate post, hopefully to be completed in the near future.

    Even struggling for brevity, it seems worth pointing out that the graph matches the results we see in congressional and legislative elections. Democratic districts look like little blue dots on a red map almost right across the country. That, besides how many pixels it’s taking me to say what I have to say, is why I’m going to try to give density its own post. For now, I’ll just say that whether population density causes people to hold certain political views, whether choosing political preferences and choosing where to live happen to come from the same personality traits but don’t cause each other, or whether some sort of self-selection is going on, makes a huge differences in the next questions we ask and the approaches we take. I hate giving a conclusion with little about how I got there, but nonetheless, I’m inclined to think aspects of living in different densities lead people to certain political tendencies. Whites in urban areas should be the most winnable, but also most likely already won, and they help only to win statewide — not that winning statewide is pointless. Ask anyone living under a GOP ideologue governor elected in 2010. But we have to crack the problem of winning more sparsely populated areas to win majorities of seats, and that graph might suggest looking at districts around 800 people per square mile.

    Region: By “region” I mean states, not urban, suburban, and rural differences. Obama’s 39% of the white vote was just 10% in some states, but he won the white vote in other states, and even the white male vote in a few. So the problem is not uniform across the country, and the course of action is not obvious. Does getting only 10% in some states mean that’s where we have to go for more votes? Are the states where we’re doing the best also the states where potential voters are most persuadable and that’s the opportunity? It strikes me when looking at the whole country that we need a balance of both where the opportunity is greatest, and where the strategic need is greatest. On the one hand, referring again to Vermont, Democrats already win districts, so maybe that’s the best place to find persuadable white voters, but the impact is low. On the other hand, there’s Texas.

    Texas isn’t just the second biggest prize of electoral college votes and it isn’t just safely Republican; it’s a must-win for Republicans. Without it, they have no realistic path to the presidency (barring finding some way to muck around with the electoral college — not to give them ideas, but I’m amazed they haven’t suggested just letting the Republican state legislatures assign their states’ votes to the Republican candidate regardless of popular vote, which would be perfectly constitutional). They also get two safe US Senate seats without which their hopes of taking the Senate grow dim, and the gerrymandering of congressional districts is much of their House majority. The latter absolutely requires they hold the governor and state legislature. If Democrats could make Texas competitive, that would be a national gamechanger. Republicans would be forced to pour resources into Texas instead of using it as a piggy bank even if Democrats merely gave them a good scare. Forget about waiting for demographic changes to just happen, taking the risk a big enough percentage of DLDGs will vote Republican to keep the state red. Trying to win over enough current voters might make Texas purple an election or two sooner. It’s an uphill climb certainly, but strategically, it has the biggest payoff.

    But should more winnable situations with much less payoff be ignored if we’re in an either/or situation? Well, good thing we’re supposed to be the ones who cope better with nuance.

    Religion: The takeover of the Republican Party by Christian conservatives has set up something of a feedback loop. Being Republican became identified as part of being Christian, and being Christian is part of being Republican. Liberal Christians might not agree with the need to be Republican and conservative to be Christian, but conservative Christians and Republicans seem to think those things go together, and they get to decide who joins the GOP. Non-Christians and liberal Christians are among the DLDGs, even if by virtue of being pushed out of the Republican Party rather than choosing to join the Democrats. Well, so be it. The fact Christians are still a majority of all Americans, and a majority of whites, suggests that we have to win over more white Christians, even if they’re shrinking as a portion of the population. People with no religious affiliation vote Democratic already, but they’re the fastest growing group, so there might still be plenty of opportunity there. If it turns out they’re concentrated in heavily Democratic districts already, then we still have no alternative to trying to win more Christian votes, but one thing needs to be made explicitly clear: I do not mean to imply Democrats have to start making religious appeals for votes, but rather, trying to win the votes of voters who happen to be Christians. I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that non-Christians pretend to be Christians, but I am suggesting the non-Christian vote isn’t enough in most districts, and where it is enough, those are usually safely blue districts already.

    Gender: Since white women are more likely to vote Democratic than white men, maybe the place to look for votes is obvious. Keep in mind though that the gender gap doesn’t just mean women lean Democratic. It means men lean Republican. Sometimes, the gender gap has helped Republicans. So do we go for women’s votes since that’s been a better place to look so far, or should we seek a way to close up the gap on the male side?

    Occupations: People in some occupations are among the DLDGs even when they’re mostly white, like scientists, government workers, teachers, and artists, and I presume readers have already noticed something they all have in common: conservatives hate them. I suggest they’re Democrats more because Republicans pushed them away than because they suddenly turned liberal, though I suppose being hated by conservatives would lead you to consider whether liberals are really so bad. Blue collar whites used to be a strongly Democratic group, and the fact they aren’t is still hard for Democrats to wrap our heads around. If we could figure out how to win back blue collar whites, that’s a lot of the GOP base gone. Doing so is clearly a big topic, so for now I’ll just admit that what we’re doing isn’t working well enough.

    Age:The Democratic lead among younger voters is partly due to younger voters being less white than older voters. Among younger whites, we’re still losing, just by less than among older whites. Then again, we need just a bigger minority of whites, not a majority, so that still works for us. On the other hand, do we need to give up on older whites? For example, the photo ID for voting constitutional amendment in Minnesota failed as badly among senior citizens as other age groups. This was an amendment rather than candidate, but still, among older white voters, the Democratic position won (our older voters are so heavily white that I feel safe saying that). So it can be done.

    Income: I haven’t seen a cross-tabs of different income groups and race or ethnicity. As I started thinking about differences in income, I realized I’ve got nothing but guesses and presumptions. It seems worth asking though if rich whites vote differently than middle class or poor whites. Does each income group vote the same way regardless of where they live, and what other groups they fall into? If I had to guess, I would guess income isn’t predictive of much of anything. I don’t like guessing though, so best to look.

    Multiple variables: A white male is actually a member of two demographic groups. A suburban white male is in three groups. A young suburban white male … it’s probably obvious where I’m going, and probably the point is obvious. Just remember that when you’re trying to step back and rethink what you’re doing, you have to check the obvious too just in case you’ve actually been forgetting it. So multiple variables is a complication without a magic formula. The message or policy that we hope wins over the young suburban white male might have a strong appeal to suburbanites, but then young people hate it. I have no solution to offer except to be sensible that this is what we’re dealing with. In fact, rather than assuming undecided voters are oblivious people who somehow missed an election campaign that dominated the news for year, they could be undecided because the suburban part of their identity likes what we have to say, but the young part prefers the Republican position. In other words, an individual could be experiencing conflicting values or conflicting interests, even while being informed, and thus gets to election day unable to decide. That might explain why the Obama campaign broke down their targets for TV ads to such discrete units.

    Where you live: How is where each of us lives a variable in winning the white vote? While we’re discussing the macro view, and we can try to encourage those in a position to actually make strategic decisions to do one thing or the other, at a local level, we can do more than just share a link on Facebook or recommend a diary on Kos. We can become the person making decisions. Sometimes the trick is jut showing up. Even when you’re looking just at your own time, we have our biggest impact at home. By time I mean we can travel to volunteer elsewhere, but you can only help with a campaign that way. You can’t stay and build something like you can at home. So I’m hardly going to blame someone who devotes their time to the safe district that helps not at all to win swing districts, if the safe district is where they live. When we try to influence the people who run statewide campaigns or statewide parties, we’re thinking at a large level. When you have three hours free next Thursday, you help at home. And that’s fine. Nobody knocking doors in their own district should be made to feel like they’re wasting their time, and you’re certainly not wasting time building a local party or advocacy group where you live and therefore can keep at it. At the same time, our overall topic is winning more white voters so we can win more districts in a situation where Democrats are packed and maybe even gerrymandered. So to the extent each person has flexibility, just consider that. Maybe you live in a safe district but just over the line from a swing district. That might allow you to not just show up once or twice, but to be a volunteer who can be around for years.

    It also shows the importance of local party building. If local parties are built in safe districts only, that doesn’t help. It means in every other district, each campaign requires reinventing the wheel. That’s short term thinking. If you do happen to be living in a red or purple district, I encourage you to focus on building the local party, hopefully building up an experienced group and broadening the base of volunteers. Be the 50-state strategy. So I guess as well as saying think local, I’m also saying think long term.

    Thanks to a commenter on the cross-post on Daily Kos pointing out another variable, which is media. Maybe it’s actually an aspect of density, but media availability might actually be a variable by itself. Urban and suburban areas usually have a bunch of local TV stations, full radio dials, ready access to broadband, and large dailies and alternative weekly newspapers, while some parts of the country still have no broadband, and dial-up works fro not much of the modern internet. Many cable systems don’t carry MSNBC let alone Current/Al Jazeera, but they all carry Fox News. There are few local TV channels in many places, and even few radio stations, and nothing liberal. Even some big cities have no liberal radio, not the terrestrial radio is as important as it used to be, but it’s far from nothing … and everybody gets conservative radio. Good luck getting alternative weeklies much outside the urban core. So in short, people can vary widely in terms of the available media.